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In the mountains of southern California, where I work as a framing subcontractor, we build most of our houses on stepped footings that follow the grade of the hillside. We start by framing a "buildup" from the footings to a point that provides a level base for the first-floor deck. On many sites, this buildup can be 18 or 20 feet high on the downhill side. When you're working at the very top of a house like this, it's pretty scary looking down. If you have to set up scaffolding or get up on big ladders to put windows or siding on those high walls, it can be a real nightmare. So during 13 years of